The Meek Shall Inherit… the inkwell

Who is this Jim Meek? He is described as a freelance writer in Halifax (and works for Bristol Communications). He has been serving up a steady diet of thought-provoking articles dealing with the lack of economic development in the region.

This one on Saturday talks about a controversial report that looked at the long-term effects of pogey in New Brunswick and Maine.

Their conclusions?

The authors look at five decades of data in the study – entitled The Long-Term Effects of a Generous Income Support Program: Unemployment Insurance in New Brunswick and Maine, 1940-1991. Kuhn and Riddell conclude that in Canada – with its generous (un)employment insurance (EI) programs – not working became an attractive “lifestyle” choice.

Successive reforms to the EI system made part-time work more and more attractive. By 1990, New Brunswickers could earn (about) 80 per cent of full-time wages by going to work for a mere 30 weeks. If you only wanted to put in 20 weeks on the shop floor, you could still take home 70 per cent of full-time wages.

This was nice non-work if you could get it. And it wasn’t that hard to get. Thirty per cent of “New Brunswick’s workers received some UI benefits in 1990. This corresponds to about six per cent for men in Maine, and three per cent for women.”

Meek’s conclusion?

More important, Canada’s EI system has entrenched a culture of dependency in rural areas of this region. And anyone who thinks that the politics of pogey is dead and buried should be reminded that the Martin government “improved” benefits for seasonal workers in 2005.

And what has the mean-as-Bush Harper government done about this? It left the Martin reforms in place, and extended a pilot program that provides an additional five weeks of benefits to seasonal workers. This is Canada, after all. And there’s always another election to be fought.

Who is this guy?